Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Trine Not To Think Too Far Ahead

Calvin 56, Trine 43 (box score)

This was really the first game Calvin had won this year purely with defense. You could also throw in the Adrian game perhaps, and maybe Aquinas and Cornerstone, but none of those three games were as extreme as this one.

Calvin couldn’t score, plain and simple, but the defense allowed them to hang in there and make a game of it until the baskets started falling. Remember this?

There are good days and bad days. There are games where shots don’t fall. There are games where the ball seems to take weird bounces. This happens – and will happen again at some point down the stretch – but this isn’t what WANT is about. It’s a decision – a repeated decision that’s made every moment – to stay calm, stay focused, stay controlled, stay team-oriented, and stay dominant.

I had very literally written that two days before this game, and that’s pretty much what happened. Calvin didn’t score a point for nearly seven minutes (a Dan Stout free throw), and didn’t make a field goal for the first ten minutes -- nine minutes and fifty nine seconds, actually, if you want to be literal about it. But even then, one-quarter of the way through the game, with one field goal in and three points on the board, the Knights found themselves down only six points.

Trine jumped out to the quick 9-0 lead inside the first five or six minutes, but the Calvin defense clamped down then and there, and only allowed 34 more points the rest of the game. It was the best defensive output of the season, holding Trine to a 68.1 efficiency rating – the first time they’d held an opponent under 70 all year.



Opponent
OEff
DEff
Margin
Result
at Trine
88.7
68.1
20.6
W
Grace Bible
115.1
72.6
42.5
W
Anderson
129.1
73.7
55.4
W
Hope
113.0
73.8
39.2
W
at Kalamazoo
113.9
76.4
37.5
W
North Park
117.8
76.6
41.2
W
Wabash
117.5
79.3
38.2
W
Adrian
92.4
82.5
9.9
W
Finlandia
139.6
84.0
55.6
W
Alma
116.4
85.2
31.2
W
Aquinas
93.3
88.5
4.8
W
Wheaton
61.4
89.6
-28.2
L
Ripon
126.0
89.8
36.2
W
Cornerstone
97.2
90.2
7.0
W
Manchester
127.3
92.2
35.1
W
at Albion
103.8
99.1
4.7
W
Carthage
91.4
107.4
-16.0
L

(Conference games in bold, sorted by defensive efficiency rating which is the same as the opponents’ offensive efficiency rating.)

The defense is clicking to the point where they’re making some decent offensive teams (Hope, Trine) look like Anderson, North Park, and Grace Bible. The Massey Ratings now say Calvin’s defense is the tenth best in Division III, a rating that’s been trending upward. Zac commented to me that this Calvin teams reminds him of the 2005 team – not in overall construction, but the way they came together about this time that year as a relentless defensive unit. This team may be even more defense heavy (and less on offense) than that team, but he’s not wrong. Calvin hasn’t seen this type of team defense since that Final Four team.

I don’t know that you could pick out too many guys on this team (or the ’05 team, for that matter) who are excellent one-on-one defenders, but they play the Vande Streek system to near perfection together as a team. It’s been a treat to watch.

The offense wasn’t strong on Saturday versus Trine – the first time they were held to an efficiency rating under 90 since the Wheaton debacle – a concerning fact, but it’s encouraging to know, to be assured, that they’re able to keep up the defensive intensity when things aren’t falling their way. As I said in the opening, they can win games on defense, and did just that this past weekend.

Up next is Olivet – AT Olivet – which is not a game Calvin should look past. The Comets have played extremely well at home and just knocked off Hope there on Saturday by hitting a three pointer in the final second. Hope isn’t “HOPE” to the degree they’ve been “HOPE” for the last six years or so, but they’re still the second best team in the league, and they still should have beaten Olivet rather handily.

Calvin’s defense will be put to the test on Wednesday in a much different way than it was on Saturday. Olivet, unlike Trine, loves to shoot the three – they’ve fired up 76 more attempts than any other MIAA team this year – and they make them at a good clip – 38.7% for the season. Calvin has been as good as anyone in the league at defending the three this year, but this one could be a different animal. Lackadaisical defensive play will be rewarded with made threes in this one. Calvin is going to have to use their length out on the perimeter if they’re to be effective defensively.

Massey’s prediction says Calvin over Olivet by 11 (72-61) and my efficiency calculations say Calvin by 14 (70-56), but Olivet is capable of pouring in more if they’re allowed to loose more than a few open three point shots. They’re one of the poorer two-point shooting teams in the league (and, as I’ve said, one of the best three-point shooting teams), so it will be interesting to see if Coach Vande Streek adjusts the game plan to focus on the long-range attempts.

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